Confessions of a failed entrepreneur

Two years ago a friend of mine and I founded the world’s most unknown agency. Unfortunately it never made the transition to the world’s most known agency. A month ago we dissolved the company. What follows is my unfiltered, honest view with regards to starting a business from scratch. It’s the result from our experience and mistakes.

It’s a business, not a philosophy club

Talk is cheap. When meeting potential clients, make sure that you’re talking money at the second meeting. If not, give them the benefit of the doubt and have a third, final meeting. If fees aren’t discussed and agreed upon by then: move on. They are wasting your time with a lot of blah and can’t make up their mind.

It’s all about the money

If it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense. If you give people something for free they will take it. Who wouldn’t? Don’t think because you gave them a freebie they will come running back again and enthusiastically sign the contracts next time. Working for free to get a foot in the door isn’t a strategy that pays off. Chance is they think “We’ll see if we like it, and we’ll decide later. Some day. Most likely never.” Name your price and never undersell. Even if you’re desperate to close a deal. Focus on trying to get clients who will pay instead of trying to persuade those who will hardly ever pay well.

2 is 1 too many

Focus on one thing. And do this one thing really bloody well. Even if you are good at a few things, you can’t cover them all equally. As a result the quality of your work will suffer in all areas.
This was one of our bigger issues. Looking back it’s seems pretty obvious. But when you’re in the midst of things, you don’t always realise it. This has been a tremendous eye-opening experience in terms of understanding that clarity is one of the most important things in life – or perhaps even the most important thing. (Maybe I’ll cover this topic in a separate post in further detail.)

Get a client before you start

If you have one or two clients committed before you officially launch your shop and jump into the unknown, I’d highly recommend this approach. In our case we didn’t have any clients and we were both entering new fields. We both had our business background in different fields. We were hungry and bold, but also naive. Naive in the sense that we underestimated how difficult it would be to get clients committed.

Trial and error

Finally, get comfortable with the idea that your venture is simply a trial and error. There’s absolutely no guarantee for success, regardless of how many business books, business blogs and entrepreneur biographies you have read. I think you might have a better chance of succeeding, if you try to look at it like a game instead of pressuring yourself that you need to succeed. I was pressuring myself that I need to succeed because I didn’t want to go back to my old job. But that’s because I only saw my former job as the only option in case I failed. I didn’t know what the other options would be. Thing is, that with certain failures, better options arise. But you have to shift your view that a possible failure isn’t bad, but instead an experience with new opportunities ahead of you.